In the eighty years since Marcel Duchamp drew a moustache on a copy of the Mona Lisa, the dissolving of cultural forms has intensified to the point that there is no longer an absolute, a “proper” form, anywhere. This generalized breakdown is evident in social and moral codes, in gender distinctions and personal relationships, in politics and economics, in literature, music, dance, painting, and architecture, in our concepts of reality itself.
Is there any sense to be made of this seeming chaos? And if so, can any single theory adequately account for all aspects of the phenomenon? Physicists and mathematicians have informed us that reality is irreducibly complex and plural, unable to be exhausted by any one system of description. Following their lead, Mary Settegast has explored several different ways of looking at the reality of dissolving forms, seeing it as the result of global consumer capitalism/ environmental deterioration/ the end of a cycle of time/ the beginning of a new cycle/ a shift in the evolution of human consciousness/ and finally, seeing the dissolution of form as a cause for celebration.
Each of these six perspectives is theoretically “correct” in its ability to explain the breakdown, and each can be supported by the work of twentiethcentury artists. Readers are asked to forego the impulse to choose which view they believe to be true and encouraged instead to practice the simultaneous holding of multiple perspectives: “Like the Cubist painters of the early twentieth century, who were among the first to recognize the error in a single point of view, we will be trying in these pages to portray our subject from all sides in hopes of capturing it whole.”